They say life is the best teacher. The things that you learn from your experiences stay with you for a lifetime. But how many of us can afford unique experiences every day? We all seek stability in life. Someday, somewhere, we will settle down. It’s in these times that literature helps us to gain access to secrets of life that we probably could have never unearthed on our own.
Poets, philosophers, and authors all around the world create great oeuvres of words from their experiences and adventures. Reading their works gives us an opportunity to tread through lives that we never had a chance to live and learn what we couldn’t have learned with the constraints of time, place and money in reality. Literature is infallible, a treasure trove of lessons that we might have missed while navigating through the narrow alleys of our lives.
Here are the 5 lessons I got from literature:
1. Beauty and power of words
‘Hope is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all -‘ -Emily Dickinson
I think this is the first and foremost lesson one learns when they dive into the world of literature. We learn figures of speech through grammar books in schools but the perception of true aesthetic beauty of words come from literature. The joy of reading beautiful words strung prettily is no less than looking at a winsome rose in all its red glory.
Literature comes with a beauty that has the power to move and inspire you. You could be reading about someone who lived centuries ago, and yet, you could feel a connection with them strong enough to bring your eyes to tears or drive your heart to begin again with a new found passion.
2. Complexities of human emotions
‘To be, or not to be, that is the question’- Hamlet, William Shakespeare
Not everything in the world is black and white. Reading books introduced me to grey characters and taboo subjects which allowed me to develop critical thinking skills and not judge people in just binaries. Literature compelled me to delve into human psyche and have a better understanding of their thoughts and emotions which I could, in turn, use to help others out of their dilemmas.
3. Sky isn’t the limit for imagination
‘Books are a uniquely portable magic’ -On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King
Literature taught me I could be anything and everything. The reality is too restrictive. But literature opened the gates to flights of fancy. I could be a witch who can turn into a cat or I could be an evil wizard who has split his soul into seven pieces! I could travel to Lilliput or sail to Brobdingnag. Or I can be a killer clown on the loose!
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children is an incredible work of art blending mythology and fantasy while George Orwell takes us to a dystopian world where he blends science fiction and social issues. Literature showed me how while we have only one earth, I can create infinite worlds on paper to break away from the banality of human world.
4. Explore beyond your comfort zone
‘Why, why is anyone superior to another? Why are we all sinners?’-Mulk Raj Anand, Untouchable
Like how literature taught me there isn’t a limit for imagination, it also made me realise the boundaries of my thinking and opinions.
It introduced me to the ghosts of the past, the traumas carried into the present and pushed me towards a change for a better future. It showed me the underlying contemporary issues I wasn’t affected from and made me more sympathetic and accepting.
I travelled the world and lived vicariously through experiences of authors like Anne Frank and Alice Walker, discarding my indifferences and unlearning my prejudices.
It made me a better person.
5. You are not alone
‘So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.’ -Roald Dahl, Matilda
This lesson is accompanied by reassurance and comfort of being understood. It’s hard to adjust in a society where your experiences and thought process diverge from the standards set in your immediate surroundings. You could feel so lost and yet, you could be sitting in the corner of your room reading a piece of literature where you feel the author is describing your life, your struggles and your dreams. You are made aware that there is someone, somewhere, who is dealing with demons same as you and you are not alone in your battles.